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Polar vortex is back: Extreme, record-breaking cold forecast next week

These maps aren't like the others. Barney the Dinosaur is nowhere to be found.

Typically, weather junkies on social media herald the arrival of the polar vortex by superimposing pictures of Barney over temperature maps because of the extreme hues of purple that accompany its brutally cold temperatures.

There's a colder than purple on weather maps though: It's gray. Like death.

And, there's a big blob of gray showing up across the Upper Plains and Great Lakes next week.

How cold is gray? Experts peg it at minus 20 to minus 30.

Those are air temperatures, not wind chills.

Most of the coldest temperatures are expected to be found around the Upper Midwest and western Great Lakes.

It's highly unlikely Buffalo would get anywhere close to that cold, for two reasons: climatology and the warming influence of Lake Erie. But, forecasters are already girding for some frigidly cold conditions in Western New York.

The National Weather Service has temperatures dropping into the low single digits on Tuesday night and rebounding only into the mid to high single digits for highs on Wednesday before dropping below zero overnight Wednesday and recovering back to the single digits above zero for Thursday's high.

Low temperatures Thursday are forecast well below zero across much of the Great Lakes. (National Weather Service)

Early models show there's a possibility it will be quite windy too. Winds close to 30 mph are possible, which could drive wind chills as low as minus 30.

What does a wind chill of 30 degrees below zero feel like?

The expected outbreak of cold isn't just social media hype. It's grabbing the attention of meteorologists and other respected weather experts.

Meteorologist Dave Zaff at the weather service's Buffalo office said the set up reminds him of...well, here let him tell you himself:

It sounded so drastic that Don Paul, contributing meteorologist The Buffalo News, deemed it necessary to point out that Zaff is far from a doomsday peddler on Twitter.

Paul tweeted:

And, it's not just a northern tier of the U.S. thing either.

The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has eyeballs all over the weather maps too.

And, national climatologists are already mining data for all-time records for cold.

Now, about that ice at Niagara Falls...

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